Ford was the first automaker to offer a hybrid SUV. The 2005 Escape Hybrid served as a rolling laboratory for Ford, which gave outdoorsy types a rugged and capable alternative to the Toyota Prius and also served under brutal conditions as taxi cabs in Manhattan.
Ford discontinued the original Escape Hybrid after 2012, but after skipping a generation, the fuel-efficient SUV returns as a version of the redesigned 2020 Ford Escape. Here are five most important things to know about the redesigned Escape Hybrid:
The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid looks like every other version of the Escape, except for a small “Hybrid” badge on the tailgate. (Photo: Christian Wardlaw)
1. Hybrid power comes standard on some Escape trims.
Rather than make the hybrid powertrain an option, Ford includes it as standard equipment on Escapes in SE Sport and Titanium trim. A Ford spokesperson says that when customers are given the option of a hybrid powertrain, they usually won’t choose it, even if the price is the same. Make it standard and and the theory is that people will be happy owning the 200-horsepower hybrid.
With SE Sport trim, there is no alternative to the standard hybrid drivetrain. With Titanium trim, buyers can swap it out for a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission.
2. The hybrid system has a minimal impact on passenger and cargo space.
The 2020 Escape Hybrid’s battery is quite small and weighs less than 60 pounds. It is mounted underneath the rear seat and makes no compromise to rear passenger comfort. The impact on cargo capacity is negligible. With the Escape Hybrid, owners cannot move the cargo load floor into a lower position like they can with the standard version, but this is just an inch or two. As a result, the Escape Hybrid is just as accommodating and as easy to load as the standard version of the SUV.
Ford says the Escape Titanium’s perforated leather absorbs more interior noise. (Photo: Christian Wardlaw)
3. Fuel economy should be much improved.
As this is written, the EPA has not provided official fuel economy ratings for the 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid. The old Escape Hybrid managed 32 miles per gallon combined for front-drive models, and 29 mpg with all-wheel-drive.
Based on our first drive, the new Escape Hybrid’s real-world fuel economy could hit 40 mpg. Driving conditions included morning rush-hour traffic, highway driving, and a few spirited runs in Sport mode on narrow country roads.
4. Driver assistance technology comes standard.
The 2020 Escape Hybrid is equipped with standard Co-Pilot360 advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). They include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beam headlights. A Co-Pilot360 Assist option package adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and evasive steering assist to the SE Sport. Co-Pilot360 Assist+ is standard with Titanium trim, equipping the SUV with lane centering assist.
Ford says the 2020 Escape Hybrid holds almost as much cargo as the standard Escape. (Photo: Christian Wardlaw)
5. A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version goes on sale next year.
Ford will sell a PHEV Escape starting in early 2020. The company estimates that it will easily recharge overnight using a standard household power outlet, and will provide more than 30 miles of pure electric driving range before switching to gas-electric hybrid mode. Unlike the standard Escape Hybrid, the plug-in will come only with front-wheel drive.